June 1, 2006

WIC Is Working In Scotland County and Across Missouri

A decade of results shows that Missouri’s WIC program is making significant improvements in the nutritional health of women, infants and children across the state. Monthly more than 130,000 Missourians participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC.

Currently there are more than 100 WIC participants in Scotland County according to Nancy Holt of the Scotland County Health Department. Participants visit the local health department on the third Tuesday and/or Wednesday of each month.

The program, which provides food prescriptions (specially designed food packages) and nutrition education, is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

“Improving a person’s overall nutritional health is by nature a slow process that evolves over time, but statistics from the past decade show real improvements in nutrition for Missouri WIC participants,” said Phyllis Fuller, a registered dietitian with Missouri’s WIC program. “The proof is in the figures.”

Holt stated the vouchers allow participants to purchase milk, cheese and other food items that benefit the mother and child from any WIC qualified vendor in the state. Vouchers are also available for the purchase of formula, if the mother is not breast feeding. However Holt stated the health department encourages mothers to breast feed.

Statistics collected during the past 10 years by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal improvements in several areas in Missouri including breastfeeding and anemia – two nutrition benchmarks for women and children.

Among WIC participants in Missouri, babies who were breastfed increased from approximately 32 percent in 1993 to nearly 48 percent a decade later. Encouraging women to breastfeed their babies is an important part of the program’s nutrition education efforts.

Anemia decreased from 26 percent in 1993 to 16 percent in 2003 for children under the age of five who participated in the WIC program in Missouri. Improved nutrition is the key reason for the decline in anemia.

The WIC program works to improve the health of women and children by offering education about nutrition and issuing checks for the purchase of nutritious food for pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children up to five years of age who meet eligibility requirements. In addition, WIC provides nutrition counseling, health screening and risk assessment, breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care providers or social services agencies.

Foods that can be purchased with WIC checks target specific essential nutrients often missing from the diets of participants such as vitamins A, C, and D, iron, calcium and protein. Food provided through the WIC program includes, cereals, milk and cheese, eggs, dried beans and peas, juice, and peanut butter.

To qualify for the WIC program, participants must be a resident of Missouri.; be at nutritional risk, according to a health professional and meet certain income requirements. More information about income guidelines can be obtained at a local WIC agency or at www.dhss.mo.gov/wic/eligibility.html. A family of four can earn up to $2,900 per month to qualify for the program. In addition, a person who participates or has a family member who participates in certain other benefit programs, such as the Food Stamp Program, Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, automatically meets the income eligibility requirements for the program.

“The WIC Program is an investment in our future because it improves our children’s health,” Fuller said. “It gives our most vulnerable children the best possible start by providing good nutrition during the critical stages of fetal and childhood development.”

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